Health Ministry cancels tender to purchase medical equipment from China over controversyControversy had erupted over the government's decision to purchase medical equipment from China despite high costs and concerns over standards.
The government on Wednesday scrapped its agreement with a private company to purchase protective gear, reagents and other medical equipment from China.
“We have scrapped the deal we signed with Omni Business Corporate International, which had committed to supply 19 items including protective gear and testing kits,” Mahendra Prasad Shrestha, director-general of the Department of Health Services, said. “The company has so far supplied us 10 percent of the total items. We will call another tender tomorrow and purchase necessary equipment through a fast track process.”
The first lot of the medical equipment, worth a total of $10,390,400, arrived in Nepal on March 29. The second and final shipments were due on April 2 and April 5 respectively. With the tender cancelled, no more shipments should arrive.
The first consignment arrived on Sunday morning on a Nepal Airlines plane sent to Guangzhou to ferry the consignment home.
According to Shrestha, Omni Business Corporate had committed to supply remaining items by Monday and had later sought a deadline of April 2. However, the contractor had not yet contacted concerned officials at the ministry and department and there was also no possibility that the company could supply within the deadline.
The Department of Health Services on March 26 had awarded the tender to Omni Business Corporate International for medical equipment necessary to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
With the cancellation of the contract, the company’s Rs50 million security deposit has been seized.
But the contract had run into controversy, as it was awarded without any competitive bidding, despite a number of importers applying for the contract. There were also concerns over their price and standards, especially since a number of European countries have recalled thousands of pieces of defective Chinese medical equipment, including testing kits and masks.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of May 26, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. Covid-19 had spread to 210 countries and infected more than 5,589,712 people with 347,903 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 144,950 with 4,172 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 57,705 confirmed cases with 1,197 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 772 cases with four deaths.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.